5/8/2013 12:05 P.M. ET
Honorary Bat Girls for Mother's Day revealed
Thirty women will be recognized on the field at Major League ballparks
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
This is the story of their stories.
They are 30 breast cancer survivors, 30 warriors, 30 inspirations, 30 Honorary Bat Girls.
You will meet them at the ballpark on Mother's Day this Sunday.
"These women represent the many women that battle cancer while continuing to demonstrate the ideals of family, love and service," wrote the person who nominated Maria Heddleston, the Pirates' Honorary Bat Girl, a wife, mom and teacher who "thrives" in her ongoing battle to overcome a Stage 4 diagnosis. "I can't fully express my honor, respect and pride for this woman. Many people do not live entire lives as fulfilling and meaningful as she has led in the past year alone."
"There can be good that comes out of dark times," wrote Kelly VanBuskirk, the Kansas City winner who was diagnosed in 2009 and endured surgeries and treatments, finding strength in her weakest moments. "I want this opportunity for the three generations of family who fought this before me. My son is a Royals fan to his core; what an honor it would be to share in this event, to be on the field with a team he looks up to ... I would be honored to take a stand against cancer for those who cannot be here today, those currently fighting it and for those who have to hear the dreaded words tomorrow."
Major League Baseball on Wednesday announced the 30 winners of the 2013 Honorary Bat Girl Contest, which recognizes baseball fans who have been affected by breast cancer and demonstrate a commitment to eradicating the disease. The winners, one per MLB club, will be recognized on the field at Major League ballparks on Mother's Day or during an alternative date for away clubs.
Singling out one fan to represent each club is merely a practical matter, and a symbolic show of support to all those who fight. Fans across the country shared inspirational stories that provide hope and motivation, as well as the reasons they or their nominees should represent their favorite team. In addition to the winners, you can real all the entries at HonoraryBatGirl.com and then share their stories on Facebook, Twitter and via email.
Winners were selected by fan votes on HonoraryBatGirl.com, along with feedback from a guest judging panel that included Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia, Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, Royals outfielder Alex Gordon, MLB Network host and reporter Sam Ryan and Maria Menounos of Extra TV.
During MLB's annual Mother's Day national day of recognition, Honorary Bat Girls will take part in pregame activities, be honored during an on-field ceremony and will receive pink MLB merchandise and two tickets to the game. Another home game in May will be selected for clubs away this weekend.
Pink bats will be used again by hundreds of Major Leaguers on Sunday, the most vivid annual show of support, as has been the case since 2006. You can personalize your own pink Louisville Slugger at the MLB.com Shop, and $10 from the sale of each bat will be donated to MLB Charities in support of the fight against breast cancer. As has been the case each year since '06, game-used pink Louisville Sluggers will be auctioned exclusively on MLB.com to raise further funds.
For the first time ever, MLB will introduce a new Rawlings baseball with pink stitching and graphics as the official game ball for contests on Mother's Day. MLB has used unique colorations for stitches and graphics for game balls in the past, but this will be the first time it'll be done for Mother's Day.
To further demonstrate their support for this cause, players and on-field personnel will wear the symbolic pink ribbon on their uniforms and will also wear pink wrist bands on Sunday. Commemorative base jewels and dugout lineup cards also will be pink.
The Honorary Bat Girl program was introduced in 2009 to raise additional awareness and support for MLB's annual "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer" initiative celebrated on Mother's Day. Stand Up To Cancer, a charitable program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, and Susan G. Komen for the Cure are supporting partners of this initiative, established to raise awareness about the breast cancer cause and funds to support life-saving research.
In four years, more than 4,000 testimonials have been submitted, and more than 10 million fan votes have been cast. Now that the 30 winners are selected, it is worth looking at all of their stories, as well as the stories of others nominated.
They show incomprehensible power, courage and faith. They take refuge at a baseball game. They tend to uppercase the word "SURVIVOR." They undergo surgeries and treatments and talk about shaving parties, and others look up to them and ask how they do it.
Ally Fairfield is a huge Cubs -- and Anthony Rizzo -- fan who was diagnosed one year ago at the age of 23 with Stage 3 invasive ductal carcinoma. In addition to that aggressive breast cancer, she had cancer in her lymph nodes. But after a barrage of surgeries and treatments, she looks forward to being in remission and "cancer-free!"
"No matter what I'm going through, how much pain I'm in, I know that somewhere out there, there is someone that is worse off than I am, and whatever it is I am going through, I know I can overcome it," Fairfield wrote in nominating herself for the Wrigley Field honor. "Having a positive attitude has helped me tremendously throughout my journey."